If you were being cynical about Fontaines D.C.’s new record A Hero’s Death, you might choose to look a little closer and speculate on the singles chosen to lead up to the album’s release. ‘A Hero’s Death’, ‘I Don’t Belong’ and ‘Televised Mind’ dropped one after the other, each brilliant and teasing that the forthcoming album might just be something special and surpass the standard set by their acclaimed debut Dogrel.
Needless to say, the singles did their job. Radio 6 airplay, Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World and Spotify playlist status all in the bag – whoever markets the band is probably giving themselves a slap on the back right now.
But for all the gloss and promise provided by interviews on Beats 1 et al, the reality is that the album’s other songs don’t quite match this trio of singles. ‘Love Is The Main Thing’ might be one exception, a chance for frontman Grian Chatten to explore romantic drift, days and words slurring into one. With a drum beat constantly trying to keep up with the rest of the music, the track has an eerie, slippery quality.
An interview from the band back in June hinted that A Hero’s Death would be influenced by the Beach Boys and this is most clearly heard on ‘Sunny’, another of the album’s better moments. Listening to the snarl of ‘Televised Mind’, it is difficult to imagine that the group might successfully experiment with high-pitched vocal harmonies and string sections on the same album but they deserve credit for making this work.
Too many tracks, however, lack vigour by comparison. ‘I Was Not Born’ plods along with minimal direction, risking being branded as filler music. Despite title track ‘A Hero’s Death’ imploring the listener (“When you speak, speak sincere”), there are moments on this record when the group seemingly diverge from their own ideology.
As a result, their latest record is a statement of difficulty; a transition from a riotously successful debut flurry to a year of touring struggles means that Fontaines D.C.’s second offering has its moments, but falls short of ground-breaking.